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As women continue to increasingly outpace men in pursuit of higher educational goals by earning undergraduate degrees at a rate above their male counterparts, the demand for financing options increases as well. When coupled with the unique needs of many women, whether minority, nontraditional or low income, the search for financing options that address these needs becomes even more complex.
Loans and scholarships aside, many women turn to grants and loans to augment inadequate financial aid packages. Grants of varying sizes help students close the gap between cost and ability to pay, and have the exceptional draw of never requiring repayment. In the search for grants tailored especially to women, start at the most obvious places and work outward.
American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers a number of grants to women pursuing educational endeavors. Their Career Development Grant provides between $2,000-$12,000 to women who hold a bachelor’s degree and are seeking to re-enter the workforce, further advance or change careers. The organization especially favors minority women, those seeking their first advanced degree and those entering nontraditional fields.
Interested candidates can take an eligibility quiz and submit their application online at the AAUW website.
The International Federation of University Women offers grants to female members from a wide range of countries. They must belong to one of its national federations and associations but are free to pursue postgraduate work in any field.
Funds are awarded in Swiss Francs of $3,000-$6,000, or roughly $3,300-$6,670 USD. Interested women can download an application from the IFUW website and complete it for submission.
Soroptimist is a nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of women. Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards provide financial funds to assist women in pursuing educational and career goals.
Recipients must reside within one of Soroptimist’s 19 member countries, provide the bulk of financial support for their family, be accepted or enrolled in a vocational skills or undergraduate degree program and demonstrate a need for the award. In addition, many demonstrate the ability to overcome substantial obstacles.
To apply, visit Soroptimist.org, select the Contact page and download an application for completion.
The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund (MMMF) offers grants to international women studying in the U.S. A prerequisite of the reward includes the recipient’s plans to return to their homeland after studies have been completed.
Applicants must be citizens of a lower or middle-income developing country, be willing to return to their country within two years of completing their degree and serve a minimum of two years of service. In addition, they must have a demonstrative commitment and proven record of service in assisting women and children in their homeland, be at least 25 years old and able to demonstrate financial need and a satisfactory academic record.
MMMF offers grants of up to $11,000 to assist educational endeavors. To apply, visit the World Bank Family Network Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund website, select US or Canada, download and complete the application.
The Sunshine Lady Foundation’s Women’s Independence Scholarship Program awards scholarships to women who have suffered at the hands of an abusive partner. The program is available to women in the United States who have abandoned an abusive domestic relationship and are in pursuit of higher education.
Recipients of the award can use funds for education at a technical, vocational, state supported, private or for-profit college. The Foundation’s primary goal is to assist single mothers of formally abusive relationships, therefore applicants with severe financial constraints and small children are the most likely to be successful.
Though some funds are available for graduate study, the foundation reports that most women in pursuit of graduate-level educational attainment fail to meet other situation-specific criteria, such as a crisis level need for the award, and are likely to be unsuccessful. Additionally, although the program states that funds are available for studies at for-profit institutions, the foundation is reluctant to fund such pursuits for a variety of reasons.
Minimal criteria for the award include a separation from the abusive relationship for at least a year, U.S. citizenship, a demonstrative and strong desire to complete an approved education curriculum, severe financial need and the usage of services from a non-profit, domestic violence agency for a minimum of six consecutive months.
Before applying, visit the Women’s Independence Scholarship Program website for detailed information concerning guidelines and criteria. A brochure and application booklet are available for download as well.
Foundations, universities and varying organizations often provide grants to women in order to attract or retain them in certain fields.
American Association of University Women (AAUW) seeks to support women engaged in full-time advanced-degree coursework during their fellowship year within a select number of underrepresented fields through their Select Professions Fellowship. Women pursuing a master’s degree in Architecture, Computer/Information Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics or Statistics are eligible for this award.
Additionally, fellowships are available for M.B.A. students in their second year of study, Juris Doctorate or law degree students in their 3rd year of study and medical students, whether M.D. or D.O., in their 3rd or 4th year exclusively. Awards range from $5,000-$18,000, and of course, do not have to be repaid.
Visit the AAUW website for complete details on the fellowships and how to apply.
Zonta International’s Amelia Earhart Fellowship provides funds of $10,000 to 35 women pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace sciences and aerospace engineering programs. Awards are given annually to women throughout the world and can be used at any accredited college or university offering the appropriate course of study. Successful applicants will demonstrate a superior academic record in an aerospace field.
To apply, visit the Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship website and download a current application.
The National Physical Science Consortium aims to improve the number of U.S. citizens, particularly women and minorities, with graduate degrees in the physical sciences and engineering fields. The NPSC Graduate Fellowship awards a $20,000 annual stipend to recipients, renewable for six years. In order to apply, visit the National Physical Science Consortium’s website for an application and additional details.
The Society of Women Engineers provides funds for women enrolled in accredited baccalaureate and graduate programs in engineering, engineering technology or computer science at an approved, accredited university. Awards range from $1,000 to $20,000. Visit the Society of Women Engineers’ website for more information and to apply online.
The Microsoft Corporation seeks to attract women, minorities and the disabled to the field of technology by offering a number of subject-based funding programs.
The Microsoft College Scholarship Program encourages applications from underrepresented minority groups with an interest in a technical degree. Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a bachelor’s degree program in the United States, Mexico or Canada, maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or 4.0 on a 5.0 scale, and demonstrate an interest in computer science.
In order to apply, applicants must submit a completed application packet along with supporting materials such as a resume, recommendation letters and supplemental essays to the Microsoft Scholarship Program.
Visit the scholarship’s page at Microsoft’s website to learn more.
Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) offers annual awards of up to $5,000 to students of African descent with an interest in one of several designated fields and a passion for technology. Approved courses of study include computer science, engineering and business administration. The successful applicant will demonstrate financial need, have a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 and possess proven leadership capacity in her school or community.
To apply, applicants must submit a completed application packet that includes letters of recommendation, a transcript, essays and resume to BAM Scholarship. The application itself is available for download from the Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship page.
Microsoft’s Graduate Women’s Scholarship Program provides single-year scholarships to academically outstanding women entering the second year of graduate studies in a computer science, appropriate mathematics or electrical engineering program. Awards of $15,000 are given to successful applicants, along with a $2,000 conference and travel allowance.
To apply, potential recipients must submit a curriculum vitae, transcripts from the undergraduate institution, letters of recommendation and the formal application. To apply to the Graduate Women’s Scholarship Program, visit the website, download the application and submit it online.
The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund offers scholarship and grant funds to low-income women who are over the age of 35, U.S. residents, and in pursuit of a technical, vocational, associates or first bachelor’s degree. They must be enrolled or accepted by an ACICS or regionally accredited school.
Chief in the selection process for JRF is the applicant’s income and the foundation’s selection criteria, which include the potential recipient’s goals, plans for the future and obstacles overcome.
JRF’s income eligibility is determined by household size and income and is updated each year. Current figures are from the Department of Labor’s Lower Living Standard and can be found on the foundation’s website. To apply, visit JRF’s website, watch the Application Guide video and download the current application form.
Several states, independent foundations and colleges offer special grants to single mothers interested in pursuing higher education. Often, in addition to single parent status, applicants must possess a designated level of financial need. Refer to the specific funding source for information concerning eligibility and applying.
The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund provides income to offset the cost of parents pursuing higher education within the state. Parents must demonstrate economic need, provide custodial care of a dependent under 18 and must not have received a degree from a four-year college prior to the award.
Additional guidelines and limitations vary by county. Visit the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund’s website for specific information regarding eligibility, application procedures and required supplemental materials.
The Association on American Indian Affairs Displaced Homemakers Scholarship awards funds of $1,500 to displaced homemakers who could not otherwise meet the financial burden of an education. Displaced homemakers are individuals typically over 30 who have never attended college, have children enrolled in elementary school, high school, college or otherwise have moved on. An alternative example of a displaced homemaker is an individual who began school but halted studies due to family responsibilities.
For more information concerning designation of displaced homemakers’ status, other eligibility requirements or general scholarship information, including the online application form, visit the Association on American Indian Affairs’ Displaced Homemakers Scholarship page.
The Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education offers three scholarships for single-parent students and others deemed non-traditional. The Marius “Gabe” Degabriele Scholarship is for graduate students, while the Kazimour and Contributors Scholarships are for undergraduate students exclusively.
To apply for one of these scholarships, visit the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education website and download the online application.
The Andersen Nontraditional Scholarship for Women’s Education and Retraining (ANSWER), offered by the Foundation for The Carolinas, awards funds to single-parent mothers over the age of 25 and in the process of raising grade school children.
Applicants must be in pursuit of an undergraduate 4-year degree or 2-year nursing degree and a resident of Mecklenburg County, NC or a contiguous county in North or South Carolina. To apply, visit the Foundation for the Carolina’s web page for more information.
The College of DuPage sets aside special funds to encourage single mothers to attend their institution. The College of DuPage Foundation Single Parent Scholarship awards 10 scholarships of $1,000 to single mothers who demonstrate financial need.
Applicants must be a resident of District 502 in Illinois, maintain a 2.0 grade point average, attend school at least half-time and enroll in either a degree, certificate or transfer program. To apply, complete and submit the FAFSA, download the scholarship application from the College of DuPage Foundation Single Parent Scholarship page and submit it to DuPage’s financial aid office.
The Mary Jane Young Undergraduate Scholarship for Re-entry Women offers $1,500 to unmarried, re-entry women over 25 with children or married women who have delayed their education for 10 years. Women must intend to pursue full-time studies, exhibit academic excellence and have earned less than 30 college credits at the time of application.
Specific criteria regarding income and eligibility limitations can be found on the university’s scholarship page. Interested women should visit the Minnesota State University Mankato’s website to download the scholarship form, review guidelines concerning the supplemental essay and learn more about the application process.
The Coplan Donohue Single Parent Scholarship awards $1,000 to single parents with primary custody in pursuit of higher education at Minnesota State University Mankato. Awards are available for full-time study in any area. Successful applicants will have completed no more than 30 semester credits, have demonstrable academic success and be a U.S. citizen.
More information concerning the application process, including supplemental guidelines regarding the essay, recommendations and transcripts required is available online. To apply, visit the Minnesota State University Mankato’s scholarship page to download the appropriate form.
The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire offers an impressive number of funding sources for single parents interested in obtaining a higher education at their institution. While some give preference to women, all require that eligible recipients shoulder the financial burden of childcare.
In addition to these single-parent scholarships, the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire offers low-income grants like the Blugold Commitment Grant and Wisconsin Covenant Grant, state-issued funds for Wisconsin residents through the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant and financial incentives for minorities through the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant, Wisconsin Indian Assistance and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Assistance.
More about these programs, eligibility requirements and supplemental materials required in addition to the FAFSA can be found on the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire financial aid website.
The Susan Bruce Single Parent Scholarship awards funds of $1,000 to single parents for the pursuit of any degree at the university. Students must demonstrate a financial need for the award and demonstrate a potential for academic excellence.
The Heroes Fund for Single Parents a total of $2,800 to admitted, single parent students with financial need. The scholarship fund gives preference to women who are returning students.
The Single Parent Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire awards a total of $8,000 to enrolled single parent students with the potential for success. Potential recipients must demonstrate an unmet financial need and shoulder the burden of dependent childcare. Preference for this scholarship is given to returning female students.
The Ken and Mary Smith Single Parent Scholarship is awarded to University of Wisconsin Eau Claire single-parent students with a minimum grade point average of 2.0 and demonstrable financial need. Awarded for a maximum of 5 years, recipients must maintain satisfactory academic progress to maintain eligibility.
The Cathy Sultan Single Parent Endowment grants returning female University of Wisconsin Eau Claire students with a significant financial need an award of $600. Preference for the Sultan Endowment is given to students who have demonstrated a potential for academic and career success.
The University Lutheran Church Single-Parent Scholarship awards single, custodial parents with dependent children a single award of $500. Potential recipients must have a demonstrable financial need not met by other forms of financial aid and must pursue studies at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
Several women’s colleges offer grants and scholarships to students in exchange for studying at their institution. Dozens of such universities exist, awarding funds based on merit, ethnicity, economic need, religious affiliation or subject of study.
These grant funds and other scholarships are available through filling out a FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid and indicating the appropriate college on the application. Note that some institutions will require an additional application made directly to the financial aid office for the receipt of financial aid funds.
Agnes Scott College offers funds to women based on merit, participation in the Presbyterian Church, ethnic background, leadership ability and academic subject.
Alverno College provides a number of grants to students enrolled at their institution. In addition to federal funding opportunities, the Alverno College Grant awards money to admitted students with demonstrated financial need. Other grant sources available at Alverno include the Wisconsin Tuition Grant for residents of the state and the Talent Incentive Program Grant, a reward for first-year students.
Bryn Mawr College offers undergraduate and graduate grants based on a variety of factors. Undergraduate students who can demonstrate financial need can receive assistance from Bryn Mawr Grant Funds. Awards are contingent on full-time study and are given only after students have exhausted the current enrollment period’s federal grant resources.
Lesley College provides a number of need-based grants to undergraduate students for a maximum of four years. The Lesley College Grant, in addition to federal grants and scholarships, offers undergraduate women an opportunity to fund an education in any subject while studying at the university. Students must demonstrate financial need.
Simmons College makes use of several grants to help students meet the burden of financing an education. The Gilbert Grant is awarded to residents of Massachusetts who can demonstrate exceptional financial need. Simmons College Grants award funds to students who can demonstrate financial need regardless of state residency. Other grants, such as the MASS Grant and Massachusetts Performance Bonus, provide funds to state residents at Simmons College and elsewhere.
Federal grants are an excellent resource for students seeking to fund their higher education. The United States government offers four major grants through which a student might qualify for assistance. These awards are based on need, military service, proposed coursework and service commitment. To apply for any form of federal aid, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be submitted for processing.
The Federal Pell Grant awards a maximum of $5,500 per academic year to students who can demonstrate financial need. Only undergraduate students who have yet to receive a bachelor’s or post-baccalaureate teacher certification may qualify for this award. The amount of funds granted will vary according to the cost of school attendance.
The federal government awards the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to students with the greatest need. An award of up to $4,000 a year is granted, and awarded in accordance with cost of tuition and anticipated financial need.
Students who lost a parent in Afghanistan or Iraq as a result of service in the military after September 11th may be eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant award. In order to qualify, students must be unable to receive a Federal Pell Grant, be under the age of 24 and be enrolled in college at the time of their parent’s death.
The TEACH Grant Program provides funds of up to $4,000 a year to students willing to teach in public or private schools that serve low-income students.
Students who receive the TEACH Grant agree to provide full-time instructional services in either a high-needs area or designated school with low-income students for a minimum of four years. High-need fields include math, bilingual education, foreign languages, special education and designated shortage areas in the school’s area.
Should a grant recipient fail to meet the minimum 4-year teaching requirements within 8 years of completing her degree, her grant will convert to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, due for repayment with interest.
Many U.S. states provide funds to residents to assist in the pursuit of higher education. While these funds aren’t exclusively restricted to women, they are nonetheless a resource women should take advantage of. In order to qualify, typically potential recipients must meet basic criteria, such as state residency, the pursuit of studies within the state of residency, conditions of academic merit and/or the ability to demonstrate financial need.
The State of New York offers a robust grant program for state residents who can demonstrate financial need. Full-time students can take advantage of the Tuition Assistance Program, which assists New York residents in paying tuition for in-state schools. TAP awards funds of up to $5,000 to U.S. citizens at an approved postsecondary institution.
Applicants must have completed high school or an equivalency thereof, be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits, meet academic standard requirements and demonstrate financial need. New York residents interested in part time study can benefit from a similarly modeled grant program, Part-Time TAP.
For more on these programs, visit the HESC Scholarships page.
The Alabama Student Grant Program (ASGP) provides up to $1,200 to full and part time students willing to attend certain pre-approved colleges or universities. Applications are available through the financial aid office of the approved institution you plan to attend.
The Arizona Postsecondary Education Grant pays up to $2,000 to Arizona students willing to attend private universities. Should students not complete coursework towards a bachelor’s degree within five years, the grant must be repaid.
The Arizona Early Graduation Scholarship Grant (EGSG) Program rewards students for early completion of high school with an award of up to $2,000. Students must pass all portions of the Arizona Instrument to measure Standards (AIMS) and plan to enroll at least half time.
These grants and others, available through the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, are available to Arizona residents by completing a FAFSA and applying directly on the ACPE’s website.
The State of California offers numerous grants to residents seeking to further their education. The California Student Aid Commission Cal Grant A Entitlement Awards are guaranteed grants available to California residents with a 3.0 grade point average. The award can be used at California State University, the University of California and at varying colleges and universities.
The availability of awards varies according to the institution attended, with $12,192 awarded in the 2011-2012 school year for students at the University of California, $5,472 for students at California State University and $9,708 for students at private universities.
Students who fail to meet the 3.0 grade point average for the Cal Grant A Entitlement Award can qualify for the Cal Grant B Entitlement Award with a grade point average of 2.0. The Cal Grant Entitlement B Award provides guaranteed funds of up to $1,551 for students in their first year of college, with the opportunity for additional funds in subsequent years. The Cal Grant B Entitlement Award can be used at the University of California, California State University, private universities and career colleges.
Should a student not qualify for the Cal Grant A or B Entitlement Awards, they can apply for a Cal Grant A or B Competitive Award. These grants are identical to their Entitlement counterparts with the sole exception that they are not guaranteed. In fact, half of the over 22,000 Cal Grant Competitive Awards available are awarded to students in California Community Colleges who otherwise did not qualify for Entitlement Awards.
In order to apply for the Cal Grant A & B Entitlement or Competitive Awards, or any of the other grants available to California residents, students must submit the required FAFSA by the stated deadline and submit the appropriate proof of grade point average forms. Visit the California Student Aid Commission’s website to review requirements, download pertinent forms and check the status of a completed application.
The Pennsylvania State Grant Program awards funds to student residents with exceptional financial need. In order to be eligible, applicants must have a high school diploma or similar equivalency, attend an eligible postsecondary institution, enroll at least half-time in a program with a minimum length of two years, meet character requirements and maintain a domicile within the state of Pennsylvania.
While recipients of the grant are eligible to use funds at an institution outside the state, the amount of funds available declines drastically in such cases. For example, a Pennsylvania resident attending a private 4-year college within the state reporting an income of less than $25,000 would typically receive between $4,150-$4,348 annually. However, the maximum award for any Pennsylvanian who travels out of state is $800.
For more information about the Pennsylvania State Grant Program including eligibility requirements, award estimates and an online application, visit the grant program’s website.
These are just a few examples of the types of funds available to residents willing to study closer to home. Visit the website of your state’s higher education commission for information on grant sources to support in-state studies.
Minority women can take advantage of additional financial opportunities provided exclusively to those of color. Often times, scholarship criteria will demonstrate a preference for minority women in specific fields and minority women in general. As always, it is important to pursue a diversity of options when funding any higher education costs.
The United Negro College Fund provides various scholarship opportunities for minorities interested in attending an HBCU member college, as well as for those interested in various academic fields. To qualify for a scholarship to attend an HBCU member college, applicants must complete the UNCF general scholarship application, found on the UNCF page.
To apply for any one of their numerous subject specific scholarships or merit-based funds, applicants should visit the UNCF’s scholarship page for more information, including specific application processes.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides scholarship funds to minority applicants by way of its Education and Leadership Development Program. Awards of up to $7,500 are given to students who demonstrate leadership potential and financial need. Successful applicants are graduating high school seniors with plans to attend an accredited four-year college or university, U.S. citizens and individuals with a commitment to community service. Apply online by visiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship page today.
The Minority Scholarship Foundation Endowment awards funds to graduating students who are minorities from the Rock Hill or Fort Mill school districts in North Carolina. Students must possess a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Apply by visiting the scholarship coordinator at your Rock Hill or Fort Mill high school.
Minority women are eligible for a broad array of financial aid programs.